Visiting Martha’s Vineyard is an all day under-taking (and not cheap), so we left home at 7:00 AM to catch the ferry at nearby Woods Hole. We left the car at the parking lot provided by the ferry company ( for $15 a day) and were taken by shuttle bus to the ferry. Due to the high cost of taking a car on the ferry, we decided to take public transportation on the island. Ferry tickets are $17 per person round trip so we bought the tickets and boarded the ferry which we discovered was brand new. We enjoyed the 45 minutes across Nantucket Sound and arrived at the town of Oak Bluffs. We bought a day pass for the public bus around the island for $8.00 per person, quite a bit cheaper than the almost $100 to bring the car.
Martha’s Vineyard is 100 square miles of mostly wooded land with six small villages made up of pricey homes, shops and restaurants. A third of the island is undeveloped conservation land. Approximately 17,000 people live year round on Martha’s Vineyard with the population swelling to more than 100,000 during the summer. There are no traffic lights, no fast food restaurants and no chain stores. Outdoor lighting is kept to a minimum to better enjoy the night sky. The homes of the rich and famous are behind gated compounds and not visible to tourists. The beaches are the most popular feature of Martha’s Vineyard. It is interesting to note that Massachusetts allows private ownership of beaches so not all beaches are public.
We first explored Oak Bluffs, built between 1867 and 1872 after its first beginnings amid the oak trees as a Methodist revival meeting place. It is the first island town to have electricity, movies, a skating rink, a carousel, a bowling alley, a dance hall, telephones, cars and airplanes. While exploring Oak Bluffs we found Flying Horses, a carousel built in 1876 and moved from Coney Island to Martha’s Vineyard in 1884, making it the oldest operating platform carousel in the country. It is registered as a National Historical Landmark. There are 22 wooden horses with real horsehair tails. We then found a geocache and while headed to the bus stop we came across a small park with a statue of a Union Civil War soldier placed by a Confederate soldier from Virginia who settled on Martha’s Vineyard after the war. At first he was shunned by the locals for being a Confederate soldier but later was accepted and became an active member of the community. He placed this statue to show his support for the United States.
We waited in line for the bus to the next town. The temper-ature was climbing and waiting in lines in the hot sun was starting to get to us. We found the buses to and from Oak Bluffs were very crowded with people often having to stand. Making it even more uncom-fortable was the fact the buses were not air con-ditioned and the windows could not be fully opened. Along the way we passed the popular Jaws Bridge where scenes were filmed for the movie “Jaws”.
Our next stop was Edgartown, the island’s oldest European settlement and once an important whaling center. Edgartown and nearby Vineyard Haven are the principal commercial centers of the island. Edgartown was founded in 1642 and underwent a building boom from 1830 to 1845, the golden era of whaling, when profits from whaling and trade with China brought huge fortunes to the island. We learned many roofs of homes in this area have platforms known as widow walks which were really used as perches from which to pour sand down chimneys in case of fire.
After lunch we decided to continue exploring the outer reaches of the island by bus. We ended up in Aquinnah on the far tip of the island. Knowing how long the bus ride would be back to the ferry, we decided to head back. We had hoped to stop at a cemetery to see the grave of John Belushi, but if we got off the bus we would have to wait an hour for the next bus and we decided we didn’t have the time. John Belushi loved Martha’s Vineyard so much his family decided to bury him there.
We had to change buses in the town of Vineyard Haven and by the time the bus reached us, it was standing room only and very crowded. It was further complicated by roadwork on a bridge which slowed the bus down to one lane. We finally reached Oak Bluffs where the line waiting for the 3:15 ferry seemed endless. We went in the ferry office to buy our return ticket back to Woods Hole. The ticket seller told us the 3:15 ferry was sold out AND because of a ferry accident there would be no more ferries leaving Oak Bluffs the rest of the day. Our only choice was to catch the bus back to Vineyard Haven and hope to get on the 5:00 ferry to Woods Hole. So we went back outside and waited in the hot sun in the long line for the standing room only bus down the one lane road in heavy traffic back to Vineyard Haven. Thankfully we were able to get two tickets to Woods Hole and not wanting to take any chances on not getting on the ferry, we took our place in line early. We stood an hour in the blazing July sun for the ferry. By the time the ferry began loading, the line stretched far in the distance and a loud speaker was telling people beginning to get impatient not to worry, that it was a large capacity ferry and everyone would get on.
We had an uneventful trip back to Woods Hole. Now all we had to do was find a shuttle bus back to our car. Us and hundreds of other tired, hot people. Luckily we made it on the first bus though once again we had to stand. A minor rant here. I don’t consider myself too old and thankfully not handicapped, but it did surprise me that on the four buses where I had to stand and in some cases really had to hang on for some distances, there were many teenagers and young people who never once offered me their seat. I must say it surprised and disappointed me, both for the young people who didn’t know better or didn’t care, and the parents who sat there and didn’t teach their children more respect. Only one gentleman who appeared to be in his 50’s offered me his seat which I declined after thanking him.
We finally made it back to the car, tired, hot and dehydrated. In spite of it all we enjoyed our day on Martha’s Vineyard and were glad we went. However next time I think we will visit Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard in the fall when it is cooler and the crowds have left!
So pretty and so much history. Glad to see you’re back to doing mega-full days!